If you read the news often enough, you’ll know the world is populated by corrupt politicians, rapacious bankers, perverted priests, racist college students, and several hordes of armed zealots. Our planet is not a kind place—at least, if you keep up with the latest media reports. In 2007, for example, the Pew Research Center released data showing that for the past two decades Americans have been mainly interested in the following types of news stories: United States-related war and terrorism, bad weather, and human-made and natural disasters. Crime and social violence, plus health and safety, also ranked higher than most other categories. So, pretty bleak stuff. And just think of what has dominated the headlines since: missing planes, marathon bombings, teen bullying, oil spills, disease outbreak, the mortgage crisis, and the trial of a Florida mother charged with murdering her two-year-old daughter. All horrible.
Yet, at the same time, this isn’t the whole picture, or even half of it. Despite the daily parade of suffering on cable news, many people believe the world’s getting better, not worse. Writing in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker argues that we’re currently experiencing the most peaceful time in human history.
“Media outlets are certainly changing what they write in an effort to chase eyeballs,” Berger says. “So we might see a shift to more positive content as people try to chase shares, but more important is paying attention to metrics that actually drive the outcomes you care about.”
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